The cities of Fort Worth and Dallas, Texas have always been host to two of the most underrated music scenes in North America, but in the last few years, it’s been producing some remarkably talented figures that have had a hard time staying out of the national spotlight – including singer/songwriter Christine Hand. Hand creates an interesting cocktail of Americana-style folk, moderate pop, and hearty roots music in her output that has had critics around the underground raising their eyebrows in the last couple of years, and in her new album Standing on the Shoulders, it’s easy to see what all the fuss has been about. Standing on the Shoulders introduces the world to a simple kind of acoustic swing that is both familiar and wholly unique to Hand, and while it doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel melodically, it’s decidedly one of the most intriguing LPs I’ve listened to all year long.
Hand’s poetry is perfectly matched with the acoustic guitar play we discover in “In the Black and White,” “Be Still,” “Dust,” and “Simple Life,” and to some extent, I think these four songs reflect just how much influence she’s drawing from the old school model of classic singer/songwriters like James Taylor. There’s so much emotion rooted in the very tone of her voice here, and whether her verses come across as riddles or straight-shooting commentary, there’s never a moment where her words don’t have a harmonious backing coming from the strings she so artfully picks and strums. She’s cut from the same famed cloth as some of her forerunners, but I wouldn’t describe any of this material as being recycled for a second.
Though it hasn’t been the case for the vast majority of albums to land on my desk in 2022, Christine Hand’s Standing on the Shoulders is a record that has zero filler for us to sift through, making its tracklist quite the rare find indeed. Every song here, from “Love Me True” to “Slow Dance” and “House of Bread,” feels like it could be a single (which isn’t to say that any of these tracks sounds as though it were designed purely to secure steady rotation on the radio), but more than that, the stories that comprise Standing on the Shoulders amount to pieces of a much grander puzzle, revealing the identity of their composer through movements and melody rather than predictable pop metaphors and over-stylized theatrics.
There are a lot of forward-thinking concept records finding an audience around the American underground this year, but for my money, there’s something unbeatably accessible and provocative about Christine Hand’s Standing on the Shoulders that trumps the other acoustic LPs I’ve been listening to lately by leaps and bounds. Try as you might, you’re not likely to find another record quite like this one before the winter season comes to an end, and at the rate this young composer is racking up the accolades, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if she took home some end of the year prizes for her performance in this terrific new album before 2023 officially commences.
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